USSF unveils 2010 US Open Cup format

Posted by | May 5, 2010

The US Soccer Federation announced the dates and format for the 97th Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, with the tournament following the same setup as recent years – with one interesting exception.

Once again, 40 teams will take aim at being the team to lift the Dewar Challenge Trophy and claim the $100,000 winner’s prize in the final Oct. 5.

However, there will be 17 amateur sides in the first round, one more than has been the case the past few years. The extra spot is available because the USL Second Division includes only six teams this season, rather than seven.

The USL Premier Development League and the US Adult Soccer Association each will continue to have eight berths each, which leaves the total number of teams at 39, one short of the necessary 40. To bring the number to a nice even number, an additional amateur play-in game was added between two California clubs, the Sonoma County Sol and PSA Los Gatos Storm.

The Storm contacted on April 8 asking about how to join the tournament. After passing along the necessary information, most of which was found in the “How to join the US Open Cup” article (found HERE), after some obstacles, they eventually got in touch with the right people and filled out the required paperwork.

The PSA Los Gatos Storm are the first US Club Soccer team to enter US Open Cup qualifying

The Storm became the first team from US Club Soccer to ever enter in Open Cup qualifying, which is surprising because they are directly affiliated with the US Soccer Federation (a minimum requirement for participating in the tournament). Even though they are a part of the USSF, there is not a procedure in place for them to qualify. Since the USASA and US Club Soccer are essentially competitors, it doesn’t make sense for them to join the Region IV tournament, and since there are no other clubs of their kind to compete against, how else would they get in?

“This situation kind of fell into place for us, and it’s great that it all worked out,” said Neil Buethe, the director of communications for US Soccer. “Hopefully this will encourage more US Club Soccer teams to compete in the future.” Buethe also said that if more US Club teams express interest in competing, then the format for qualifying and the tournament in general would likely have to be re-evaluated and tweaked.

The Open Cup committee decided to reward last year’s NPSL champions (Sonoma County) with a one-game qualifying process against the one team that was in qualifying limbo.

The Sol have qualified for the Open Cup three times in the last five years through USASA Region IV, advancing to the second round of the Open Cup in 2006 and again last year. The Storm plan to join the PDL next year, are playing in the NorCal Premier League this season and their roster includes former NPSL players and two former Major League Soccer players (Stephen Wondolowski, Nick Hatzke).

Thirty-two teams will kick off the tournament June 15 with first-round matches, with all nine US teams in the USSF Division-2 Pro League joining the six USL-2 sides and the 17 amateur teams.

The eight Major League Soccer teams, including defending champion Seattle Sounders FC, again will enter the fray in the third round June 29. An MLS side has won the Open Cup all but one year since the league started in 1996 – the lone exception was the Rochester Raging Rhinos, who won in 1999.

A $50,000 prize will be awarded to the tournament runner-up, while the teams that advance the furthest from each level (USSF D-2, USL-2 and amateur) will receive $10,000 apiece.

May 31: Qualifying deadline
June 15: First round – 32 lower-division teams (USSF D-2, USL-2, amateur)
June 22: Second round – 16 first-round winners
June 29: Third round – Eight second-round winners plus eight MLS teams
July 6 or 7: Quarterfinals – Third-round winners
Aug. 31 or Sept. 1: Semifinals – Quarterfinal winners
Oct. 5: Final – Semifinal winners

Number of participating teams (by division):
8 – Major League Soccer (Division I)
9 – USSF Division-2 Pro League (Division II)
6 – United Soccer Leagues Second Division (Division III)
8 – USL Premier Development League (Amateur)
8.5 – US Adult Soccer Association (Amateur)

0.5 – US Club Soccer (Amateur)

2010 US Open Cup entries

Major League Soccer

Automatic qualifiers:
Chicago Fire
Chivas USA
Columbus Crew
Houston Dynamo
Los Angeles Galaxy
Seattle Sounders

Qualifying winners:
New York Red Bulls

Win & You’re In: Real Salt Lake at DC United – June 2, 7:30 p.m. – RFK Stadium (Washington D.C.)

Premier Development League

Check out the up-to-date qualifying standings here

Great Lakes Division – Dayton Dutch Lions
Heartland Division – Des Moines Menace
Mid-Atlantic Division – Reading United AC

Northeast Division – Long Island Rough Riders
Mid-South Division – DFW Tornados
Southeast Division – Central Florida Kraze
Northwest Division – Kitsap Pumas
Southwest Division – Ventura County Fusion


USASA Region IBrooklyn Italians, NY Pancyprian Freedoms
USASA Region IIDetroit United, KC Athletics
USASA Region III – CASL Elite, Legends FC
USASA Region IV – Arizona Sahuaros, Bay Area Ambassadors

Play-in Game

Sonoma County Sol (NPSL)


  • ERic says:

    While I like seeing more of the MLS teams in, I’m OK with that solution. Give an amateur team that’s shown consistency an easier route. That also means that two amateur teams will play each other in the first round, and one is guaranteed to make it to the second. Anyone want to bet that the Sol is one of those lucky teams (assuming they win the play-in)?

  • sidereal says:

    the other amateur spot will go to the winner of a playoff between two California clubs, the Sonoma County Sol and PSA Los Gatos Storm.

    Ummm, what? Hello, random. I’m sure the other few hundred or so teams in US Club Soccer and NPSL are wondering why they didn’t get the inside track on a 50/50 chance to be in the US Open Cup. Between this and DC United’s streak of 813 consecutive cup-related matches at home (or whatever the streak is up to now), I’m beginning to feel that US Soccer has a serious transparency problem.

  • Janine Clements says:

    Great article. The PSA Los Gatos STORM are determined to make a strong showing in this year’s Open Cup competition. We appreciate your coverage. THANK YOU!

  • mtl says:

    get the Gatos out of there. as sidereal said, the other teams who actually had to go through qualifying should be up in arms.

    • Josh Hakala says:

      As the article says … they are able to compete in the tournament because they are, in fact, a USSF-based club. But there’s no place for them to qualify. The USASA is US Club Soccer’s competitor, so they can’t go through Region IV … so what can they really do? I think it’s a good solution to the problem. Plus, it rewards the NPSL champion too. If they’re good enough to beat the NPSL champion, then that’s probably not a bad addition to the tournament.

  • shuggy says:

    The rest of Region IV has to go through an expensive youth like tournament to determine which two teams get in. This just goes to show that USSF and those running the Open Cup are clueless. This shows a complete lack of respect for all the other amateur teams. Here is one interesting fact… USSF claims that the Open Cup is oldest soccer tournament in the USA. Sorry the California State Cup started in 1902. But who really cares? Just trample over those that have built soccer. Thanks USSF… it sound like you’ve once again screwed the amatuers for your ease.

  • sol kesslar says:

    geez louise people,constructive criticism is helpful,venomous attacks are uncool.Can’t opinions be expressed without the personal attacks. It is football, not politics.

  • Fred says:

    This is a great soccer tournament but with $100,000 for first place? Hey U.S. Soccer what happened to all the 1994 WC money? Make the top prize $500,000. And October 5 is a Tuesday night! Where is the final? At a high school field near Main Street USA. How about Red Bull Arena on October 9th, Saturday on ESPN!Get the picture?

  • WiscFan says:

    I wish it was on a neutral field too, and at least on FSC. It would probably not be on ESPN, because some National Team games are only on ESPN2 or Classic. And yes the prize money should be higher, but unless they get a title sponsor for the tourney they wont give it. Don’t read this as getting rid of the name ‘Lamar Hunt’ U.S. Open Cup and inserting ‘Google’ U.S. Open Cup.

  • ThomasK says:

    ‘Open’ cup? my elbow!

    Not until the qualification formula is overhauled and there are no ‘play-in’ matches to manipulate the schedule will it be able to describe itself with accuracy as an ‘open’ competition.

    MLS teams may not like travelling away to USASA teams, but that is how the excitement of the game is spread – they must go out there and prove they are better!

    Depriving smaller clubs their annual opportunity to step up one or more levels to show their quality is a scandal that undermines the credibility of USSF to represent their membership and weakens their claim to stewardship of the sport.

    Call it a meritocracy? No, it’s a fix!

    If USSF wants to be legitimate then the ‘Open’ Cup must operate an ‘open’ draw – no seedings.

    From an economic perspective, repeats of recent league matches with added reserves are both meaningless and worthless – far better to put reputations on the line with a real and consequential test against unknown quantities.

    Add to this the lure of 7 extra MLS teams entering one round earlier in an expanded round-of-32 to create a higher quality product in more markets and it is sheer reckless folly on behalf of those responsible that they continue to persevere with the current flawed and contradictory system. This would mean no extra matches to create additional fixture congestion for players, while anticipation levels for a potential giantkilling is marketing goldust for supporters (attracting fans, not alienating us).

    So, whether it is by simple ignorance or a desire to protect vested interests the sham ‘openess’ is a transparent denial of the soccer community’s competitive instinct – which is the fundamental objective of the sport and the reason why players get involved in the first place.

    Only small changes need to be made to the cup format and could be done very easily to the benefit of many, but until they are the resistance to change will continue to create resistance to wider acceptance of the country’s most popular sport.

    It is a unique aspect of soccer in professional sports to be able and willing to pay it’s dues to all levels of the pyramid and respect the wider community enough to step onto the field with so-called lesser teams and it should not be underestimated.

    USSF has apparently yet to fully appreciate this lesson.

    USSF: grow up or die!

  • FCI Manager says:

    the FA CUP – why reinvent the wheel? Seems to work just fine over the pond and is full of great draws and even a few fairytale finals. And YES the big clubs DO travel, when a ManU plays 70% of their squad on a crap pitch in front of 3000 fans ANYTHING can happen. That is what makes the FA Cup head over heals better than our Cup run. Cheers

    • Josh Hakala says:

      The major problem with FA Cup vs. Open Cup IS the travel. It takes about 10-12 hours for me to drive from the southern part of Michigan to the northern most part in the Upper Peninsula … but you can drive from Glasgow to Portsmouth in less than 8. Having a blind draw would be great, but what if the NY Pancyprian Freedoms draw Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center. USSF only gives the teams so much money for travel, and I think you’d blow your USSF money on the flight. So there’s a reason why the format is what it is. They want it to be more regionalized. Plus, there’s more possibilities for regional matchups (Richmond Kickers vs. DC United … etc.), which also drums up interest.

      One could argue that if the USSF covered ALL of the travel costs, you could pull off a true ‘blind draw’ … but that’s always the easy for us to say: “Just spend more money!”

  • FCI Manager says:

    Good point Josh – was looking toward the ‘soccer’ picture and not the money side of it. Again having BIG clubs travel to small sides in the opening rounds is huge. Later on a fairy tail draw semifinal at a MLS stadium is just as nice 🙂

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